IPG and Book Chain Project to map environmental impact of industry

IPG and Book Chain Project to map environmental impact of industry

The Independent Publishers Guild (IPG) is collaborating with the Book Chain Project to map environmental impacts across the supply chain.

Six scenarios will be mapped from the point of ordering to consumer delivery, measuring greenhouse gas emissions at different stages and identifying waste and inefficiency, under the Book Journeys Project. Case studies will encompass trade hardbacks and paperbacks, illustrated and academic books printed in the UK, overseas and on demand. They will analyse transportation and distribution methods, printing volumes, customer types and return rates.

The publishing scenarios have been chosen to reflect the varied output of the book industry and have been identified by a cross-industry taskforce set up under the leadership of the IPG’s Sustainability Action Group, chaired by Boldwood Books founder and c.e.o. Amanda Ridout.

IPG chief executive Bridget Shine said: “The IPG is thrilled to be leading this cross-industry project which will not only make our sector more sustainable but also enable our members to do better business. Meaningful action can only start with a full appreciation of the consequences of current practice, and this project will give us an excellent understanding of the waste in the book supply chain that we urgently need to work together to reduce and enable improvement targets to be set. We’re excited to be teaming up with the experts at the Book Chain Project and looking forward to getting to grips with the results of the research, which we will of course share widely.”

The partnership was announced by Ridout, who is also IPG vice-chair, during a session at the IPG's Spring Conference on 12th May. Ridout sits on the cross-industry taskforce leading the new research, which was established in 2019 to support members’ efforts to make publishing a more sustainable industry.

The Book Chain Project will be led by consultancy Carnstone on behalf of leading book and journal publishers, print suppliers and paper manufacturers. It aims to increase awareness of environmental impacts in publishing and provides tools to help companies make informed buying decisions in print and production. The project is launching in June, with a final report of the collated data planned for September. 

Members include Clays sales director Vicky Ellis, Booksellers Association m.d. Meryl Halls, PRH distribution m.d. Colin James, Shine, Blackwell's head of operations Kate Stilborn, and Nigel Wyman, sales and marketing director at Gardners. The team will seek to set concrete targets for improvement which can be applied throughout the industry and help improve the sustainability of the sector, once enough data has been collected.

In the same session at yesterday's conference, Paul Randell, who leads the product marketing team at HP Publishing solutions, said the company was working to better facilitate print on demand (p.o.d.) on a global scale, encouraging the development of technology to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

“One of the most significant impacts on emission is transportation,” he said. “If you look at the notion of globally available p.o.d.—we think we can drive positive change with that. Thinking globally, printing locally — the ability to print books closer to the point of requirement and drive down our impact on the environment.

“Cost is an ongoing conversation — the more that we all come together to leverage that technology the better it’s going to be for us all. The removal of cost of distribution and production could result in a 20% reduction on the end to end cost.”

Commenting on the speed of p.o.d., Randell said an ambition was to roll out a system echoing the  “Amazon mentality of product to consumer in what is considered to be a relatively immediate time frame”.